By Lee Edwards
It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since the passing of intellectual historian and “master of letters” Russell Kirk, but his influence, far from waning, seems to be increasing.
This year marks what would have been his 100th birthday, and there have been celebrations in Washington, D.C.; New York City; New Haven, Connecticut; and his hometown of Plymouth, Michigan, at which conservative leaders have acknowledged his signal contributions to the modern American conservative movement.
In 1950, the nation’s most prominent intellectuals, including the then-reigning liberal critic Lionel Trilling, proclaimed there was only one tradition in America—the liberal tradition. Trilling dismissed conservatism as a movement without ideas except for occasional “irritable mental gestures.”
When Kirk published his magisterial “The Conservative Mind” three years later, liberal jaws dropped and the stammering began.
They could not deny—and glowing reviews in The New York Times, Time, and elsewhere confirmed—that Kirk had written a superb history of a conservative tradition in America stretching back to John Adams and the founding and continuing into the 20th century with T. S. Eliot.
The preeminent historian George Nash has written that “The Conservative Mind” “decisively catalyzed a self-conscious, unabashedly conservative movement.” Henry Regnery, who published “The Conservative Mind” and other seminal conservative works, said that Kirk had given an “amorphous scattered opposition” to liberalism an identity.
In fact, Kirk gave the conservative movement its name.
In 1951, when William F. Buckley Jr. published his controversial best-seller “God and Man at Yale,” he described himself as an “individualist,” rejecting the label of “conservative.” However, when he launched his magazine “National Review” in 1955, two years after the appearance of “The Conservative Mind,” he identified National Review as a “conservative journal” and called himself a “conservative.”
We can be grateful to Kirk for “The Conservative Mind,” because otherwise, we might well be calling ourselves the “individualist movement,” …read more
From:: Daily Signal – Feed